Trembling Bells Wide Majestic Aire EP on Limited Edition LP
Glasgow-based Trembling Bells are back with the 2016 EP Wide Majestic Aire; a seven-track mini-album which acts as a companion piece to 2015 predecessor Sovereign Self and cements their reputation as one of Britain's most exciting and exploratory groups.
"‘Wide Majestic Aire' is among my favourite songs that I've written," says the band's founder and leader Alex Neilson. This romantic ballad, sung by Lavinia Blackwall, sees the compass of the band's music swing back in the direction of folk after the prog and acid rock of Sovereign Self. It is in some ways archetypally Trembling Bells in its evocation of the landscapes of Yorkshire and Oxford and its invocation of great artists of the past - Larkin, Blake, Lorca and Turner. Such a sweet and melodic song could function as a gateway drug to the rest of the band's music, which is to be welcomed as there is much to explore in their rich back catalogue.
A major river in Yorkshire, the Aire passes through Leeds, Neilson's home town. "The Aire was a sanctuary for me," he says. "I grew up on a council estate in Bramley and the river was five minutes away. As a teenager I'd listen to the Velvet Underground, Captain Beefheart and Incredible String Band while walking my dogs along the banks. These were the things that moulded me and sent me on a certain path in life."
The band's classic debut album was named for Carbeth, and the new mini-album contains a song, "Swallows Of Carbeth," which bookends "Willows Of Carbeth" from the first record. This pair of songs are about the two most significant lost loves of Neilson's life - Willows a musician, Swallows a painter - and the overall effect is that moving blend of personal history and sense of place which characterizes the best of the Trembling Bells' work.
Elsewhere on the EP is "Show Me A Hole (And I'll Crawl In It)," a song flavored by the band's fascination with Renaissance and Baroque composers such as Monteverdi and Purcell. A great joy of listening to Trembling Bells is that one can trace their influences and inspirations down the snickelways and ginnels of western civilization in its entirety, fetching up in Plato's symposium or Weimar-era Berlin or the UFO club in 1967. The second-last track of the EP, "The Day That Maya Deren Died," is an example of yet another strand of their work - unaccompanied singing.
Trembling Bells, in 2016, are carving their own path through contemporary culture. Their huge creative ambition sees them forever pushing deeper and deeper into their art, and there is a compulsive quality to Neilson's songwriting that - like the Aire, wide and majestic - just keeps flowing. "We have," he says, "a frenzied, ferocious attitude towards life and work."